Thursday, July 19, 2018

Barlow's Knoll AAR; ACW Regimental Fire and Fury

Hello all.

It's been ages since I've been able to host a game at my place, but now is the time to get back into the practice.

I'll be running two medium / large-ish ACW games at the Pacificon convention at the end of August during Labor day weekend.  One of those games will be a scenario based on Barlow's Knoll, which I think will be a fun scenario but perhaps a little tricky to set up well.  So I thought it'd be a good idea to, you know, play it once before the convention, something like a play test.

I was successful in getting 4 players (Mr. AS, Mr. SS, Mr. CG, and Mr. HL) so I would be the umpire, so a perfect convention play test set up.

I talked a lot about how this scenario came to be in a previous post HERE.

Barlows Knoll Set Up

Step 1) Tell the wife to clean clean the house because MEN are coming over to play wargames.
step 2)  Clean the house yourself.

step 3) set up the table!

Elevations were easy this time, there is only one...

View from the table up to the knoll, to demonstrate the elevation

Table with terrain all placed.  

Just for fun, another shot looking up to the knoll, with terrain added

Almost all of my previous gaming experiences are opposite of this; we would just set up a board / terrain to whatever looked good and right.  Trying to get the terrain to match a scenario map which matches a real place is still a new thing for me.  Seems to be going alright but it adds a new dimension of things to thing about.  In the more traditional set up; you place the terrain but then you have an open hand on where to deploy the units so it's easier to mitigate any pitfalls.  But following this more 'historical' approach where the terrain and deployment are preset means that to give a 'good game' the organizer has to think through how the two interact.  
Let's remind ourselves of the Forces involved:

On the CSA there are 4 brigades lead by Hayes, Avery, Gordon, and Doles, with a total of  18 regiments; 123 stands of infantry, plus 11 cannons.  Each CSA player controls 2 brigades and some cannons.  

On the USA there are 2 Divisions; made of 5 brigades lead by VonGilsa, Ames, Amsburg, Krzyzanowski (Krzyz for short), and Coster (who is a reinforcement that comes in later on the union side) with 18 regiments of 117 stands of infantry, plus 10 guns.  Each USA player controls 1 Division and some cannons.

(that's close to 500 miniatures on the table, how I LOVE 15mm games)

troop set ups:

CSA deployment

Union deployment

And here are some more set up shots, just because I took them..

Kzryz's brigade is set to counter attack, deployed in march column.

Avery's and Gordon's CSA brigades are poised to attack the knoll

Ames' brigade is deployed behind the knoll

A brief AAR:

I did not take a lot of pictures during the game, because I was too busy running it, being social, and stuffing my face with pizza.   And it takes a lot of pictures and text to do a good detailed AAR, so instead here's a half assed effort!  I did add some diagrams to help tell the story.

The CSA attack begins!

Advance up the Knoll!

watch out for those giant D10s!  : ) 

But Hayes' Brigade gets bunched up

CSA attempt to drive the attack home but there is trouble at the bottom of the table...

The Union rush troops forward

The Union turn the flank at the bottom of the table.

Positions at the end of the game

And the game ends like many others that came before it; time runs out and we've yet to reach a solid conclusion.

Big events:
In the East (bottom of the table) the Union seems to have succeeded in turning the flank of the CSA and routed two of Dole's regiments.  And while the CSA had stabilized somewhat the Union were poised to press the advantage. 

At a crucial stage in the CSA attack, General Gordon was wounded and removed for 1 turn, making all of his regiments Out of Command, and the bad luck continued when all those regiments rolled very poorly for the maneuver check and basically halted or fell back, which meant that Avery's brigade behind them had to halt as well and the whole advance stalled for a turn.  

Post Game thoughts

Everyone said they had fun playing, I enjoyed running the game, and it was gratifying seeing all the terrain and miniatures that I've made being used.  Makes all that effort worth it.  I also thought the table looked pretty enough.  : ) 

Also, Regimental Fire and Fury continues to provide a lot of fun.  I do like those rules.  The scenario seems to be fun as well, but will need further tweeking.  

 It did bother me though that we played for about 5 hours and only got about 5 turns in, and did NOT reach a conclusion.  At the convention, this game is scheduled to run 5 hours and 10ish turns.  SO this means I either grossly under estimated the time it takes to play or we goofed off way too much.  Problem is, I don't think we goofed off all that much.  

Hayes' Brigade on the CSA left flank (top of the table) did not reach the fight in time to really do anything.  I'm not sure why this happened because I thought I did the math right...

(here, I'll prove it to you: The brigade activates on turn 2, and will move between 8-12 inches per turn, depending on maneuver check result, so in 3 turns of moving which would be turn 4 of the game the brigade should advance anywhere between 24-36 inches.. which is more than half the table).

Things to Think About for the Next Time

In any case, the game will need to be sped up for the convention.  Let's do some more math (you came to this blog for the math right?) 

5 hours =  300 minutes of total playtime.  Minus 60 mins off that to allow time for a food break and some time in the beginning of the game for me to go over some rules. That leaves 240 minutes of play time.  Let's say about 30 mins a game turn (which might be an over estimation but who knows; there will be some newer players and I tend to give people larger commands because I think that's more fun); so 240 / 30 = 8 game turns.  It'd be hard to imagine playing any slower, and if we go a little faster then maybe we can squeeze in another turn or 2.   So I still think I'm pretty close with estimating 10 ish turns but consider the middle of the game to be around turn 4.

here are some thoughts on how to sped the game up slightly, more for my own records but might as well share with you, since that's the whole point of having a blog...
Most of these involve adjusting the CSA, but that's because they are the attacking force and in a scenario like this, it's the attacking force that drives the action.

1) All CSA brigades can move on turn 1.
2) Fudge the CSA brigades deployment some so they'll be a little closer.
3) Smooth out some of the terrain in front of Hayes' brigade so it can move faster
4) maybe give a few hints to the CSA players
5) in the set up; I think Barlow's Knoll could be a little smaller and little off center (to the east), to allow more deployment space.

It's the constant balancing act of keeping the game 'historically accurate' with regard to terrain and forces but with play-ability with both sides having a reasonable chance to win, and all players having fun and feeling like they contributed to the final victory or defeat.  

Thanks for reading!  Comments are appreciated, read, and responded to. 


  1. Table looks smashing! Setting up a game like that at a con is sure to promote a lot of attention on your efforts. I like your maps interspersed among the game photos. Great addition. As for RFF, it is a solid game and allows each player to only command a few BMUs keeping everything manageable. I really like your snake fences. Are these DIY?

    1. Thanks Jon! It’s more about not being embarrassed by a poor looking game at a convention rather than self promotion; though it is gratifying when someone gives a compliment or when you get a rep for giving good games. 😀
      As to the fences; yes and no. I bought all the little sticks from Battlefield Terrain Concepts (their 15mm snake rail fence kit) and then I built the fences myself.

  2. Looks absolutely fantastic Stew. Always love your posts on the ACW and your table looks sensational.

    1. Thank you Carlo. More ACW said n the way. 😀

  3. Fantastic looking setup and some really great pictures. I'm a big fan of historical scenarios and well labelled units. Trying to recreate real terrain on a games table can be difficult and some compromises usually have to be made. But practice games (and an open mind regarding any changes needed) can only improve the play-ability and accuracy of the final game. Nice one sir!

    1. Thanks Lee, and I appreciate your comment. I also really like scenarios based on history but I agree that usually some compromises for game play have to be made. Though sometimes I don’t know what those should be until after I play the game! 😀
      It’s all about being true to the spirit and not the details.

  4. Great looking game Stew.

    Ah the fun of getting a scenario to run how you envision it. You can almost guarantee that if you have a plan based on a units movement pace that it will throw poor command rolls and screw the timings up :)
    Is there a move bonus for good roads in Regimental as there is in Brigade, maybe class the approach road for Hayes as this class?

    Going to be trying some layouts out at my club tonight to get another scenario put together, really must convert some of Brad's ones that I have too. Takes a bit more to convert to Brigade F&F though.

    Good luck at the convention I'm sure the players will have a great time.

    1. Thanks Tony! 😀.
      There is a bonus for road movement in RFF but only if you’re in march column, which nobody ever is so the roads are more just for looks! 😀. After talking to the player I have an idea on what happened: Short answer is that he moved wrong. But no matter.
      Brads books are really great. There are a few very large scenarios in each book that would convert to brigades pretty well.

  5. Lovely table, a meaty scenario and a nicely presented report, I am going to read this again … now.

    As for convention game time, I think you have to factor in an admiring public, who will want to ask questions.

    1. Thanks for the comment Norm. I’m sure it’ll be even more fantastically boring the second time. 😀

      Though being more serious about admiring public: it’s not really a thing in America. I mean people can and will come up and comment but I’m not really expected to stop the game to answer in depth. In fact I’m expected to run the game as a priority.

  6. Lovely looking game and nice maps, wrong person to ask about maths,but I'm guessing the crew playing it on the day will have to work it out a bit to start with, so there's going to be maybe more set up time,is 10 turns maybe optimistic, could you try to plan for a result in nine if that's what you realistically are going to end up playing?
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain! I agree: at show time I’m gonna shoot for 8 turns and hope for 9. It will be no problem to play past time as well as long as some players are willing.
      Luckily the other game I have scheduled for the same con is set for 6 hours, so more of a cushion.

  7. Great looking table. Love the report with ace pics and maps. Nicely done!

  8. Table looks ace, and it's good you've got a pack of Igors to assist with playtesting. I used to play with guys who put on convention games, and they'd go nuts getting games "just right".

    1. Thanks Fire. I appreciate the comment. Some convention games are more work than others. I wanted to get this one right bc it terrible to play the flank attack and never get there....😀

  9. Hi Stew, I saw this scenario in Summer Storm by Brad Butkovich and am currently painting Early's Division to fight the battle with Johnny Reb III at my club. Your AAR is invaluable in its recommendations! I sprung for some Louisiana Tigers minis from Blue Moon for Hayes' Brigade just to add some brightness to the colors within the Confederates.

    1. Thanks Rolando. Glad it was helpful. I’ve played this scenario a few times now and it’s great fun. 😀